The Canadian government is warning the local diamond industry to not trade in rough from Zimbabwe’s Marange district, following reports from the Kimberley Process (KP) Intersessional Meeting that exports be allowed.
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says a notice issued by KP chair Mathieu Yamba of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) endorsing exports is in “contravention of rules and procedures of the Kimberley Process.”
“In light of the Zimbabwean military’s brutal crackdown on miners in December 2008, Canada continues to call for supervised exports from two Marange mines and a credible monitoring arrangement.” Baird said. “Without these systems in place, Canada refuses to go along with the plan to certify Zimbabwe’s diamonds”¦ Marange diamonds should benefit the people of Zimbabwe. One important step toward this goal is to ensure the diamonds are properly and credibly certified through a strong Kimberley Process.”
The statement is one of several immediately issued by governments, industry groups, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) after the meeting—held in Kinshasa in the DRC—failed to reach consensus and Yamba issued his notice of endorsement.
Several NGO’s walked out of the meeting issuing a vote of ‘no confidence’ and expressing dissatisfaction that, among other things, Yamba’s notice does not protect local representatives monitoring on the conditions in the Marange region. Along with Canada, the United States and European Union also voiced concerns over human rights abuses at Marange.
Ian Smillie, one of architects of the KP, praised Canada for continuing to take a stance on the Zimbabwe issue.
“By attempting to give Zimbabwe a passing mark, the Congolese chair and some governments in the Kimberley Process are only fuelling Robert Mugabe’s war chest for the election violence that almost certainly lies ahead,” said Smillie, who also serves as chair of Diamond Development Initiative (DDI). “A once-optimistic conflict-prevention mechanism is buckling under the weight of its own incompetence. In opposing the decision, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has done the right thing. Perhaps Canada’s insistence that these regulators actually regulate will prevail. Let’s hope so; the cost of failure will be enormous.”
Avi Paz, president of the World Federation of Diamond Bourses (WFDB), said the lack of agreement on future rough exports from the region would be detrimental to the diamond pipeline and could potentially affect the well-being of the global diamond industry.
“Millions of people, both in Zimbabwe, as well as in the major diamond manufacturing centres, such as India, who do not have any other means of income, are affected directly and soon enough the industry at large will fall victim to the lack of resolve of the KP,” Paz said. “It is very sad that through the politicization of the KP talks, some of the KP members have lost sight of what the original objectives of the KP are. At the same time, they are using the unique structure of the KP, with its consensual decision-making process, to hold up the process and serve secondary goals that are foreign to the KP.”
Paz reiterated all WFDB members are directed to continue to follow the KP’s and the WFDB’s directives on trading in rough diamonds.